Congestion at Lagos Airport
Written by Taiwo Adediran on June 26, 2015
Regular travellers through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos experience anxiety about how to wade through the heavy traffic that builds up in the evening hours when most international flights arrive and take-off from the airport. Those who get to the airport early so as to beat the traffic, face another hurdle: there is no place to wait at the airport terminal.
The Lagos airport processes over 65 per cent of international travels from Nigeria and over 18 flights with largely wide-body aircraft with average of 250 passengers landing or taking off from 5:00 pm to 12 mid night every day. The traffic congestion gets worse from Thursdays to Saturday when more people travel, according to the records of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Sometimes passengers could spend between one and half and two hours in the traffic during peak hours from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm daily on the airport road, less than 400 meters to the airport. The situation is made worse by the road block erected by the military personnel who man the area most of the hours since the security threats occasioned by heightened insurgency in the country.
Traffic seems to be light on Mondays and Tuesdays but begins to build up from Wednesday and by Thursday night it sometimes builds up from Ajao Estate down to the threshold of the international terminal of the airport.
But the worst traffic build up is witnessed between the domestic terminal and international terminal exacerbated by the toll gate, as the manual operations force every motorist to stop and pay cash before driving off.
Sometimes the traffic can be so bad that vehicles would be on standstill for minutes.
The situation forces passengers to sometimes hop on commercial motorcycles to go the remaining distance to the terminal in order not to miss their flights. But passengers with light luggage and/or travelling alone could resort that that option.
A FAAN official said that the closeness of the Nigeria Air Force base to the link road is one of the major causes of the traffic jam. In the evenings, traffic begins to build up from the domestic terminal, known as MMA2 down to VIP round-about; then to the Air Force Base, Beesam round-about and coagulate to millipede movement towards the toll-gate.
Although the FAAN official said most of the passengers usually make it to the aircraft because they leave ahead of flight time, but some do miss their flights due to the traffic congestion.
There are two other factors that make MMIA a horrible airport. One is that there is no elaborate parking space and the temporary parking lot that exists now is not well illuminated and also not secure. The process of payment is cumbersome because a motorist that wants to leave the park will have to queue to pay and after the payment he faces another hurdle, which is getting out of the park and the heavy traffic in the evenings extends to the departure level.
FAAN is turning every available space to car park and giving them out to private operators who charge outrageous fees between N200 and N3000 for a parking space, depending on duration. While Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), which built and is managing the domestic terminal (MMA2) increased park charges to N300 for first one hour and additional N100 per every hour, FAAN charges N400 at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT). But a FAAN official argued that the N400 is for all day while BASL charges N300 for an hour.
But BASL facility is covered from rain, the facility is secure and no one can steal or vandalise vehicles as the motorist is expected to present a ticket, which opens the automated ticket at exit point. However, many passengers say the BASL N300 charge is exorbitant but they provide better services.
The GAT car park is always filled with vehicles but FAAN officials continue to accept payment for parking even when there is no space for vehicles to park. Substantial part of the car park has been taken over by bureau de change hawkers, food vendors and even vehicle mechanics.
A motorist who is in a hurry to drop off a passenger may have his vehicle towed by touts employed by FAAN on concession. The touts use obsolete tow vehicle to move people’s cars to their various yards and in the process people’s cars are damaged. Sometimes it takes a motorist two days to locate the particular yard where his vehicle was taken to because there is no notification given when vehicles are towed.
Most of the places vehicles are towed do not have any no- parking sign and even the places that have such signs, the signs are not illuminated in the night when most vehicles that come to drop off passengers are towed.
So without rules or restriction, FAAN has given the touts ‘blank cheque’ to tow vehicles at arbitrary charges. Although the General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Yakubu Dati explained that the plan was to check the crowding of airport roads by vehicles but these touts meander through every nook and cranny of the airport to tow peoples’ vehicles. At their whims the touts can charge from N2, 000 to N5, 500 depending on their mood.
An official in the operations department of FAAN said that FAAN rakes money from the toll gate so it cannot restrict vehicle movements. Observers opine that FAAN should review the activities of these touts and to reduce car park charges at the airport. They also suggested that high capacity car park should be built to take in at least 5000 cars.